Literature Society: How to Make Love to a Martian by Karrine "Superhead" Steffans
Reading How to Make Love To a Martian, Hip Hop super-groupie turned best-selling author and sex symbol Karrine “Superhead” Steffans’ Amazon kindle on her tumultuous affair with superstar Li’l Wayne, I experienced one of those Sullivan’s Travels moments where I felt like I was doing exactly what I was put on Earth to do, even if was patently ridiculous. Hell, particularly when it is patently ridiculous. The solemn, pretentious auteur at the heart of Sullivan’s Travels was put on earth to delight the public with giddy, delirious trifles like So Long, Sarong, Hey Hey in The Hayloft and Ants in Your Pants of 1939 and I was born so that I could analyze Steffans’ literary canon with an obsessiveness that’s both life-affirming and downright unhealthy.
My study of Steffans’ life and work began with the very second entry in Silly Little Show-Biz Book Club, on her salacious, headline-grabbing 2005 memoir Confessions of a Video Vixen, a standout entry that went a long way towards establishing the tone of the column. I was so obsessed with Steffans that I returned to her lascivious oeuvre not too much later to write about her 2007 follow-up, The Vixen Diaries.
I thought I was through with Steffans and her curious life’s work but while researching an Exploiting the Archives piece on Steffans’ earlier work I made an amazing discovery: Steffans had written a 109 page tell-all about her relationship with Li’l Wayne entitled How to Make Love to a Martian in 2013.
Yes! Everything about that made me happy. It was the perfect symbiosis of author, subject, title and length. I would not want to read a 300 page book about Steffans’ relationship with Wayne, in part because while Wayne’s aura hovers over the entirety of How to Make Love to a Martian, he himself only pops up occasionally in corporeal form rather than in the author's fantasies and daydreams.
Steffans spends about ninety percent of How to Make Love to a Martian waiting in a state of trembling expectation for an opportunity to be with Li’l Wayne and about ten percent of the book actually being with him.
Steffans hates to be alone, however, so she helped fill the Li’l Wayne-sized hole in her heart with other men and multiple husbands, including a hapless Jamaican immigrant the author describes as “a stupid man who didn’t know the meaning of big words or how to pronounce the small ones. He was short, ugly, unlearned, with the smallest penis I’d ever encountered on a man of his demographic.”
Passages like that are why I kind of love Steffans. She’s never afraid to be a raging asshole when the occasion calls for it, but also to be a raging asshole pretty much solely for the sake of being a raging asshole. She doesn’t just own her sexuality and her power: she owns being not just petty sometimes but actively cruel much of the time.
There’s something weirdly refreshing about how comfortable Steffans is being not just mean but vicious. It’s not enough, for example, to specify that much of the sex she had with her two loser husbands (the dude who played Eddie Winslow on Family Matters and Jamaican loser Damian, whose appearance she compares to that of a gremlin, and not, it should be noted, in a flattering way) was pity sex. No, Steffans needs to go into morbidly embarrassing detail, writing of her sex life with Damian, “It has been a little over six weeks since I let him crawl on top of me and do his business while I dozed in and out of sleep. That was the basis of our sex life, his trying desperately and failing to turn me on while I just lay there, disgusted. Still, Damian seemed to live for the two to three minutes of coitus every few weeks an they kept him indentured.”
In his introduction, Datwon Thomas writes wryly of the author’s “evilness” and notes that while Wayne certainly has his eccentricities, “(Steffans) is also a crazy so and so to boot.” He means it with palpable affection but he’s also not really kidding.
At this point I am way too emotionally invested in Steffans’ romantic life. I’ve probably read more books by Steffans than I have by Phillip Roth or F. Scott Fitzgerald so I know all too well the dysfunctional relationship patterns the author repeatedly finds herself in, the way she falls head over heels for one mystery man after another, convinced that this man will finally solve all of her problems and heal her brokenness.
How to Make Love to a Martian is a tell-all but more than that it is an act of devotion. It’s aimed at the people who made the author’s previous tell-alls buzzed-about best-sellers but more than that it’s aimed at an audience of one: Li’l Wayne. Steffans wants Wayne to know that no matter how badly he mistreats her, no matter how much he ignores her or places his own needs above hers, she will always love him unconditionally and never hold him accountable for his actions.
She seems to be of the mindset that if she only does everything Wayne wants her to do, and lets him treat her with cavalier, callous disrespect, then he'll have no choice but to give her the love, respect and validation she craves.
The theme of How to Make Love to a Martian is that true love is unconditional. It’s rooted in loving someone not despite their character flaws and weaknesses but because of those flaws and weaknesses. And oh sweet blessed Lord does Wayne have a lot of flaws and weaknesses. One might even say he’s nothing but flaws and weaknesses but Steffans is too besotted and love-crazy to be able to see Wayne as he actually is, as opposed to the combination sex god, soul mate and rock star she’s created in her vivid imagination.
As she has recounted in extensive, lurid detail in previous memoirs, Steffans has loved and lost a seemingly limitless number of hip hop big shots. When she fell hopelessly in love with Li’l Wayne, she also became hopelessly besotted with his status as one of the biggest rap stars in existence. She fell in love with the idea of him as a man who was finally worthy of her, who was her equal.
Steffans was so desperate to be with Wayne that she would accept anything from him. It didn’t matter if there were constantly other girls around Wayne made it clear he was also fucking. It didn’t matter if Wayne would fly Steffans out to a city in the Midwest, then keep her waiting for days while he was busy impregnating another woman. Wayne didn’t just make it clear he was sleeping with other women: he also had girlfriends and fiances and multiple baby’s mothers all competing feverishly for his fickle attention with his music, his drugs, his ego, his stupid electric guitars and his even stupider skateboards.
Wayne could sleep with as many women as he pleased but he flew into a rage when he found out that Steffans had other people in her life. Or, even more disturbingly, he would turn ice-cold. In one of the book's most riveting passages, a distraught Steffans calls up Wayne after being viciously abused by her boyfriend and he icily replies, “You chose him. You deal with him”, then cuts her out of his life.
To you or I that might seem cold to the point of being emotionally abusive. Steffans, however, is willing, even eager to forgive Wayne anything, including responding to a tearful account of physical abuse with sour, stern judgment.
This is not an anomaly in Wayne and Steffans’ relationship. She states explicitly that every other man she was with better do what the fuck she says or kick rocks, but that with Wayne they had a unique understanding: he would have complete control in their relationship. He’d do whatever the hell he wanted, and in return she would pine desperately for him, slavishly follow his every whim and continually forgive and forget when he does slightly inconsiderate things like impregnate other women and keeping her waiting for days to see him.
All the while Steffans was fucking other people, including, but not limited to, her two husbands, the Jamaican gremlin with the noticeably tiny penis, and the actor who played Eddie Winslow, about whom Steffans writes dismissively, “I had no respect for him and had no problem reminding him he could never shine Wayne’s shoes.”
But Steffans also strikes up a friendship and sexual relationship with Bow Wow, who is strikingly handsome, rich, famous and a nice guy to boot (a rarity in Steffans’ world, I can assure you). But while Bow Wow is a friend and contemporary of Wayne he is not Li’l Wayne. To put things in Rat Pack terms, Wayne is Sinatra. Bow Wow is Peter Lawford. And after you’ve been with Sinatra, Lawford can’t help but seem like small potatoes.
From the outside, Steffans’ relationship with Wayne doesn’t make much sense. She writes over and over again that she derives all of strength, power and her self-confidence from him. That strikes me as crazy. Who derives strength from being in a borderline masochistic (the woman would spends hours watching Wayne skateboard), one-sided relationship with someone that treats them like shit?
In How to Make Love Like a Martian, Steffans paradoxically professes to possess strength in servitude, in making her happiness entirely dependent upon the validation and approval of a powerful man adept at manipulating and controlling a sprawling harem by withholding love and approval.
Steffans intended How to Make Love to a Martian as a unique love story but her version of unconditional love feels an awful lot like masochism. She loves not wisely, or too well, but with a feverish intensity that defies all logic.
Late in the book the author snaps and Wayne unexpectedly ends up the target of her fury when he neglects to tell her about his big thirtieth birthday party in her hometown of Los Angeles and she retaliates by sending him a text reading, “The director who’s up to shoot (the music video for Li’l Wayne’s single) “No Worries” is a friend of mine. He’s a dope director, he’s got an amazing eye and, best of all, he sucks and fucks me better than you, longer than you. Make sure he gets the job. He deserves it.”
I gotta admit, after reading a hundred pages of the author prostrating herself before Li’l Wayne’s genius and God-like status it was refreshing to see her cut the pint-sized pop star down to size. But part of me wishes he’d pulled an ice-cold boss move and responded to her text with a brusque, “He’s a friend of yours, a dope director and has an amazing eye? Awesome. That’s all I need to hear. He’s got the job. Thanks for the recommendation.”
But no, this finally breaks through Wayne’s massive ego but their relationship survived this utterly uncharacteristic display of independence and rebelliousness on Steffans’ part as a weird, one-sided, incredibly dysfunctional bond that Steffans works overtime to depict as true love.
Steffans didn’t fall in love with a martian. She fell in love with an asshole. That’s fascinating in its own right, and How to Make Love to a Martian is everything I hoped and anticipated it would be, a shameless and scandalous page-turner that ends up saying as much, if not more, about its author than it does about Wayne, but good lord is the difference between “Martian” and “Shitty boyfriend” huge, despite what Steffans would have you believe.
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